It’s almost March and it seems that 2023 has already offered a lot of music we’ve been waiting for from Susan Sundfor to Serpentwithfeet and from Kimbra to Ladytron. Still there is countless Indie music to be discovered so let’s get right into it. Today we’ll dive into the work of 22yo Texan songstress Sage Phoenix who’s bringing the innocence of the past reminding us that pop music does not need to be grand and dramatic to exist in today’s world. Pressing Play >
The homonymous ’Forever’ is the definition of a feel-good track, giving off strong 90’s-00’s RnB vibes but offered through a contemporary perspective production-wise. It’s kind of refreshing to witness music with such virgin, young lyricism in 2023 'Lay with me and let our worries fade away, change with me cause we can grow together’. Phoenix speaks about kind, pure love, the way it’s intended. The sturdy beat and bright, old-school synths make for a delightful, rousing introduction for this EP. ‘Angel’ follows all sensual yet super sentimental, instantly feeling like the highlight of this release but let’s not rush into conclusions yet. Phoenix is exhibiting their most velvety vocal hues, harmonising with Syauqi Destanika over a minimal, powerful instrumental where heavenly synths combine with metallic percussion into a sharp but super atmospheric ballad. From the music to the lyrics 'When I hold you its like I’ve known you forever', every layer of ’Angel’ is building this healing space, a shelter where true love can be found and time goes slower indeed. There’s a Celine Dion quality somewhere in there and it feels nostalgic.
The vintage keys and huge kick-snare of ‘Make You Mine’ make this track an undeniable ode to Synthpop. Even though the instrumental is solid and does not sound irrelevant in this body of work, the lyrics and performance style feel a bit more mellow and charming than what I’d expect from an instrumental as dynamic and commercial as ‘Make You Mine’. As I’m carefully trying to find out what feels off, I find that -to my ears- the track does not fully allow the artist to reach their potential but pushes them to act in a narrower area instead. On the contrary, Phoenix’s graceful, heartfelt expression shines the brightest in tracks like ‘Without Your Love’. The opening melody sent me to Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’ for some reason and rightfully predisposed me to a similar emotional space. The piano sounds like the perfect partner for the artist for it reflects their internal state ideally and elevates the track to the emotional level it deserves. Phoenix is bravely opening up about their first love and finds strength in their vulnerability ‘I put you first but we couldn’t make it work’ creating the most representational piece of what Sage Phoenix stands for as an artist in my opinion. It’s the best closure the ‘Forever’ EP could have and personally speaking, the most standout moment of this journey. Not to mention the importance of openly speaking about gay love through art for even though we live in 2023, it seems like the world is making worrying steps backwards. And so this is the kind of art we need now more than ever. Honest, fearless and inclusive.
All in all, ‘Forever’ is a nostalgic ride back to a long-gone era when pop music was communicating love with kindness and respect. Sage Phoenix is experimenting with a variety of styles both upbeat and introspective but it’s clear that their voice belongs to songs like ‘Angel’ and ‘Without Your Love’ where it finds the space to unfold completely, offer unbounded sentiment and shine the brightest. The Sanctum is blessed to have come across the work of Sage Phoenix and I’m already fantasizing covering a future full album about heartbreak that will proudly stand -why not- next to Leona Lewis and Celine Dion.
Enjoy Sage Phoenix here: